“There are ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:…by attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Seventy-eight years ago today, America’s Greatest Generation and our allies ran headlong into a massive German gauntlet on the shores of France. D-Day. They were from Ohio, California, Iowa, and New York, everywhere. They were rich and poor and everything in between. They answered the ultimate call. Our freedom, and the freedom of those in many other nations, was challenged, and they stepped up, as President Reagan said during that memorable speech given at Pointe du Hoc commemorating the 40th anniversary of that day, because they “knew that some things are worth dying for.”
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
Estimated deaths (sadly, we’ll never know precisely), were approximately 2500 Americans and 1900 allies. That’s a lot of Gold Star families. How many Americans know that? How many appreciate the sacrifices of those men in the operation that eventually won the war on the European Front? Apparently, not enough. And, here we are.
The world is a dangerous place. During the years of WWII, approximately 12 percent of the American population were actively serving in the military. Today, it’s less than 1 percent. That means that very few people even know someone who’s served in the military, and it’s led to a huge disconnect, folks. Our contemporary culture doesn’t get it. We’ve lost the connection. We’ve lost the goal, the understanding of the purpose our military serves. There’s a phrase I’ve used in the past which I now regret: “Our military exists to kill people and break things.” While that’s very true, it’s limited, and we exist for so much more. The US military is also, simultaneously, the greatest guarantor of freedom, liberty, and humanitarian assistance around the world. Again, from President Reagan:
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
During a few of the years when Bill Clinton was catting around the White House, I was his Air Force Military Aide and carrier of the “Nuclear Football,” the President’s Emergency Satchel and everything POTUS needs to launch nuclear weapons. My position wasn’t an appointment. It wasn’t political; it was a military assignment. It didn’t stop me from observing what was going on around me, though, and later (after my retirement), I wrote the bestselling book “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security.”
What became immediately apparent to me was the Clinton administration’s warped view of our military and its role in a functioning republic. The one essential truth about the US military over the years was its apolitical nature and its devotion to success. Our military’s core mission, obviously, is to win our nation’s wars. During the Clinton years the mission got wrapped up in politics and the larger culture war, of which our national defense should never be a part — and now, here we are.
As has become all too clear in the 18 months or so that the Biden administration has been in charge, they’re continuing the failed policies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and even George W. Bush. We will spotlight those failures and what must be done to course correct in this weekly column.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first weekly column from Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Buzz” Patterson, United States Air Force (Retired), our newest contributor. Watch for “The Buzz Cut” every Monday.)
WATCH: President Ronald Reagan’s Address for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France.